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What Happens If I Die Without a Will?

estate planning lawyer stittsville

What happens to my assets if I die without a Will?

If you or someone you love is one of the over half of Canadian adults who don’t have a valid Will, take note. Not having a valid Will at death may lead to consequences which you would prefer to avoid.

Generally speaking, it is fair to say that in most circumstances the process of settling an estate is much simpler if the deceased leaves a Will. Not having a Will often translates into increased delays in handling the estate. For example, no one will be able to handle the deceased’s affairs until the Court has appointed someone to be the ‘Estate Trustee Without a Will’ (also known as the ‘executor’). This means that no one will have the authority to deal with any of the deceased’s assets, including a house, bank account, or car, until the appointment of an executor.

If you die without a Will, you are said to die ‘intestate’. Your estate will be distributed according to Ontario’s intestate succession law. This means that someone who you didn’t want to benefit from your estate could end up receiving something and someone who you did want to benefit may not receive anything. For example, if you are separated but not divorced and have not signed a separation agreement, your separated spouse will inherit from you. Also note that a common law spouse will receive nothing other than possibly having a claim for support.

The lack of a Will often leads to additional expenses which the estate must bear. The estate will likely have to cover the cost of an executor’s bond (a premium that must be paid to an insurance company and which can cost thousands of dollars).

Not having a Will also increases the possibility of disputes arising among those who may have an interest in the estate. For example, who should apply to act as the executor may become a contentious issue among family members.

In addition to the above, dying without a Will means you:

  • Don’t get to choose who will act as your executor.
  • Don’t have any say who will act as guardians of your minor children.
  • Don’t get to decide how your estate will be distributed.
  • Lose out on possible tax savings.
  • Miss opportunities to do specialized estate planning for a beneficiary with a disability or a minor child such as including trusts for their benefit. For example, the inheritance of children under the age of 18 will be held and managed by the Public Guardian and Trustee and turned over to them when they reach 18, regardless of their ability to handle such assets.

Do you want to avoid the circumstances above and actually have a say in how your estate is distributed upon your death? Call 613.836.9915 or email to make an appointment to meet with one of our lawyers at our office in the Kanata-Stittsville area of Ottawa. We will thoroughly review your personal and financial situation and develop an estate plan that meets your goals and provides for your loved ones in the best way possible.

Reproduction of this blog is permitted if the author is credited.  If you have questions or if you would like more information, please call us at 613 836-9915. This blog is not intended to be legal advice but contains general information.  Please consult a lawyer or other professional to determine how the information in this blog might apply to you.

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